More working professionals are demanding online programs.The unemployment rate for Americans without a degree was 3.4 percent higher than those with a bachelor’s degree in 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As the economy slowly recovers, it is becoming more important for individuals to have a degree in order to hold a steady job. Online colleges are giving more working professionals the opportunity to earn a higher education.

Adults request more online options

The nontraditional student body is not only made up of recent high school graduates, but older adults as well.Recently, The demand for online programs has been stemming from stay-at-home moms and military officials who are stationed abroad. Distance learning has grown in popularity as a result of its continued success.

The University of Wisconsin (UW) in Eau Claire has announced that it plans to develop its first online-only degree program to comply with the demands of adults who are looking for new ways to earn a higher education. A committee has already begun work on developing a program for UW-Eau Claire, according to the Spectator News. It will allow students to work toward a bachelor’s degree in professional studies.

“What we’ve come up with is a degree that is kind of a new thing,” committee chair Katie Lang told the news source. “It incorporates some of the real skill-based stuff that adult learners need, with some real liberal arts and sciences knowledge that they also tell us they want and need.”

The school says that the main objective of creating the program is to provide more opportunities to adults and UW students who have already earned associate’s degrees. After analyzing recent statistics, UW found that many graduates were finding difficulty receiving promotions in their current jobs due to a lack of a higher degree.

The school hopes to attract both new students and encourage alumni to return to UW to take advantage of this new opportunity.

Online master’s degree programs on the rise

Individuals who held master’s degrees made $558 more weekly in 2009 than those without a college degree, according to the BLS. Schools are beginning to recognize the need for masters programs that accommodate the busy lifestyles of working adults.

Union College is introducing an online master’s degree program in psychology and a chemical dependency counselor certificate program to meet these demands. Both of them, which are geared toward distance learners, will be available completely over the internet to students on the go.

More than 4 million students were enrolled in at least one online course during the fall 2008 semester, which showed a 17 percent increase from the year before, according to the Sloan Consortium. Union College is making adjustments to match these growing numbers.

“Both the master’s in psychology and the chemical dependency certificate program are fully online,” said Jerry Jackson, dean of enrollment at Union College. “Our first students have had great success with their board exams and licensure processes, which speaks to the quality of our online programs.”

The master’s degree program, which consists of 36 hours of coursework, is directed toward students who wish to pursue doctoral studies in psychology later in their careers. The certificate program, which requires 21 hours, is dedicated to providing students with basic knowledge and skills in the field of chemical dependency counseling.

Nearly 90 percent of high-wage jobs that will be created within the next decade will require some postsecondary education, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Online programs, such as those offered by Union College and UW, allow individuals to finish their schooling in between their hectic schedules to advance their careers.

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